Bad Santa

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Bad Santa
Bad Santa film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Terry Zwigoff
Produced by John Cameron
Sarah Aubrey
Bob Weinstein
Written by Glenn Ficarra
John Requa
Starring Billy Bob Thornton
Tony Cox
Lauren Graham
Brett Kelly
Lauren Tom
John Ritter
Bernie Mac
Music by David Kitay
Cinematography Jamie Anderson
Editing by Robert Hoffman
Distributed by Dimension Films (North America)
Columbia Pictures (International)
Release dates
  • November 21, 2003 (2003-11-21) (United States)
Running time 91 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $18 million
Box office $76,057,639

Bad Santa is a 2003 American Christmas black comedy film directed by Terry Zwigoff, and starring Billy Bob Thornton, Bernie Mac, and Lauren Graham, with Tony Cox, Brett Kelly, Lauren Tom, and John Ritter in supporting roles. It was Ritter's last film appearance before his death in 2003. The Coen brothers are credited as executive producers.

The film was screened out of competition at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.[1]

An unrated version was released on DVD on March 5, 2004 and on Blu-ray Disc on November 20, 2007 as Bad(der) Santa. A director's cut DVD was released in November 2006; it features Zwigoff's cut of the film (including an audio commentary with him and the film's editor), which is three minutes shorter than the theatrical cut and ten minutes shorter than the unrated version.


Willie T. Stokes and Marcus are professional heistmen, that take on the Santa Claus routine for the children at a different shopping mall every year as a front for the opportunity to disable the mall security system, clean out the safe, and then flee on Christmas Eve. Willie is an alcoholic, a sex addict and is getting gradually unable to perform the Santa routine much to Marcus' dismay. This year, Willie and Marcus are hired at a mall in Phoenix, Arizona and Willie's vulgar remarks shock the prudish mall manager Bob Chipeska who brings Willie to the attention of security chief Gin Slagel. At a bar, Willie initiates a passionate love affair by charming bartender Sue, who has a Santa fetish.

During his shift as Santa, Willie is visited by Thurman, an exceedingly naive, overweight boy, who believes Willie is actually Santa and is the target of taunts from a skateboarding gang. When Willie is in the parking lot, he is attacked by a man (Ajay Naidu) who watched him in the bar insisting he is not gay; Thurman believing Santa needs his assistance intervenes, and the man not wanting to expose the kid to adult matters, leaves.

Willie gives Thurman a ride home, answering Thurman's endless questions, and walks into the boy's affluent house living with just his very senile grandmother. Thurman reveals that his mother passed away, and his father is away "exploring mountains" (when he is actually in jail for embezzlement). As Thurman has no suspicion that Willie is not Santa, makes no resistance when Willie breaks into the house safe and takes his father's BMW.

When Bob overhears Willie having anal sex with a woman in a mall dressing room, informing Gin sets him investigating. When Willie goes to his motel room and sees someone ransacking his room, he inquires a bystanding prostitute as to who is in his room and she suggests a cop. Willie then takes advantage of Thurman's naivety and takes residence in his house claiming that "Mrs. Santa caught me fucking her sister" enduring Thurman's relentless barrage of questions and breaking down in verbal abuse to a never offended Thurman.

Marcus berates Willie for taking advantage of a kid, and states his disapproval of Willie's "serial fornicating" and "trying to float my liver silly because I can't stand what a piece of shit I am". When woken up by Thurman screams after cutting his hand, its later revealed to be from carving a wooden pickle, which he later gives to Willie and Sue when lovemaking, referring to her as Mrs. Santa's sister.

Gin's investigation of Willie includes visiting Thurman's imprisoned father, revealing that Willie's staying there illegally. Thurman visits Willie during his shift with a wedgie from the skateboard gang and changes his request of a stuffed elephant, to a gorilla, when Gin arrives, taking them to a bar and reveals his figuring out of the con scheme to the two with blackmailing them for a half cut to keep silence. When Thurman visits Willie sitting in the BMW in Thurman's garage running the engine to commit death by inhaling vehicle exhaust fumes, Willie gives Thurman a letter to give to the police, confessing all his misdeeds when noticing Thurman's black eye jumpstarts him to make an example of the skateboard's de facto leader to the rest of them. A renewed sense of purpose for Willie has him attempt to train Thurman in boxing along with Marcus only end with all three of them lying on the ground, struck in the groin. Marcus and his wife set up a trap for Gin, feigning needing a jumpstart for their vehicle from Gin's in order to ram Gin. When Gin survives, Marcus electrocutes him to death with the jumper cables.

On Christmas Eve, when the heist is almost complete, Marcus reveals to Willie that he intends to finish him off, fed up with his increasing carelessness when the police swarm them, tipped off by the letter Willie gave to Thurman, when Willie, regretting extensively abusing Thurman, is determined to deliver his stuffed elephant. When Marcus opens fire, drawing police fire, Willies flees leading the police on a chase to Thurman's house, ignoring police request to freeze ends with him repeatedly shot on the porch.

The epilogue is told through a letter from Willie, that Thurman's giving the police the letter cleared his name, that shooting a Santa embarrassed the police with all the bullets missing his vital organs except his liver which he notes was already damaged and that Sue is granted guardianship over Thurman and his house. When Thurman goes out to ride his bike, he kicks the skateboard gang's leader in the groin correcting his misbelief that the bike belongs to him, and Thurman rides off, with the middle finger over his shoulder and ending in a titlecard, dedicated to John Ritter, referencing his recent passing away.



Bad Santa, Zwigoff's fourth film, was his most mainstream, following the limited releases of Crumb and Ghost World. The original screenplay was written by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. Prior to filming, Ethan and Joel Coen and Zwigoff did rewrites on the script,[citation needed] although by WGA rules, they were uncredited.

Jack Nicholson and Bill Murray were both interested in playing the role of Willie, but were already filming Something's Gotta Give and Lost in Translation, respectively.[citation needed]


The following pieces of music were used in the film:[2]


The film has an aggregate "Certified Fresh" rating of 77% at Rotten Tomatoes.[3] It received 3½ stars out of four from Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert.[4]

Billy Bob Thorton was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and a Satellite Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture, but lost both awards to Bill Murray of Lost in Translation.

Box office[edit]

The film grossed over $60 million at U.S. box offices and over $76 million worldwide.[5]

Home media [edit]

In the U.S, a theatrical version, an unrated version, a director's cut and a Blu-ray version (which includes unrated and director's cut) have all been released. According to, the special features for the theatrical cut of the film included: a behind-the-scenes special, outtakes, and deleted scenes. The unrated edition was released June 22, 2004 and had all of the above plus a 'Badder Santa' gag reel and over seven minutes of unseen footage. The director's cut was released October 10, 2006 and contained the new version of the film (as Zwigoff originally intended it). It also had a new commentary (in addition to the rest of the features: outtakes, deleted/alternate scenes, and the behind-the-scenes feature). The Blu-ray version released November 20, 2007 contained the unrated version and the director's cut of the movie. Among its special features were director's commentary, an interview with Zwigoff and editor Robert Hoffmann, along with other features ported over from the previous unrated version's release in addition to a showcase feature.


On September 18, 2009, Billy Bob Thornton appeared on the NFL Network show NFL Total Access. He confirmed, after host Rich Eisen hinted, that there would be a sequel to Bad Santa, aimed for release by Christmas 2011.[6] In March 2011, Thornton and The Weinstein Company confirmed that negotiations had begun for a sequel.[7] A sequel had been scheduled for December 2013.[8] On May 30, 2013, it was revealed that Miramax has hired Entourage creator Doug Ellin to rewrite the script.[9] On 25 November 2013, Billy Bob Thornton confirmed that the sequel Bad Santa 2 is expected to start production in early 2014 after script problems were resolved. It's been suggested that it is set for release by 2016, but no sources from Thornton himself or the film producers are currently reliable.[10]


  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Bad Santa". Retrieved 2009-12-05. 
  2. ^ Bad Santa (2003) – Soundtrack
  3. ^ Bad Santa at Rotten Tomatoes
  4. ^ "Bad Santa :: :: Reviews". Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  5. ^ "Bad Santa (2003)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  6. ^ Fleming, Mike. "Weinsteins And Miramax Strike Sequels Deal". Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  7. ^ Hopson, Travis (2011-03-20). "Punch Drunk Critics". Punch Drunk Critics. Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  8. ^ Eisenberg, Eric (2012-02-14). "Billy Bob Thornton Says Bad Santa 2 Is Starting Up This Year". Retrieved 2 May 2012. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Billy Bob Thornton confirms Bad Santa 2". RTÉ Ten. 25 November 2013. Retrieved 25 November 2013. 

External links[edit]